Positive Approaches Journal | 6-7

Positive Approaches Journal - Volume 2 Title

Volume 13 ► Issue 1 ► June 2024

Understanding Trauma: From Theory to Practice


A person’s experiences and the trauma that lingers can have a significant impact on their health and quality of life. The Shapiro Administration recognized Trauma and Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and we are committed to working year-round to support access to trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches, so Pennsylvania can better respond to the communities we serve and peoples’ unique needs.   

The Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Human Services (DHS) provides services to care and support some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable individuals and families every day. As Secretary of DHS, I am committed to continue the department’s critical work to help Pennsylvanians lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through trauma-informed services. This is foundational to helping people lead healthy, vibrant lives where they are able to pursue and succeed at their goals.  

This issue of the Positive Approaches Journal addresses the approach to trauma and its role in the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A) and mental illness from a variety of perspectives. Just as trauma arises from a variety of sources and experiences, addressing it in a meaningful, accessible way requires that each voice is heard, valued, and respected.  There is not, and likely will never be, a simple and uniform approach to broadly meeting the needs of many. We all bring unique experiences and circumstances that shape our present needs, and we must be nimble to effectively meet a person’s needs. There are foundational principles that are vital in determining the best path forward in a trauma-informed manner, and we can and should learn from and leverage these principles and best practices.  The goal of this issue of the Positive Approaches Journal is to present diverse, expert voices in understanding trauma from theory to practice.  Pennsylvania is increasingly focused on trauma and trauma support, including areas of prevention, recognition, mitigation, treatment, and opportunities for recovery. We encourage all providers and professionals supporting the most vulnerable population to take advantage of several initiatives happening right now, including: 

TRAIN- Individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism are at an increased risk of experiencing trauma, however, few therapists are skilled in both trauma and ID/A support. To bridge this gap, psychologists with the Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) team created the TRAIN program – 12 weeks of self-guided learnings and live webinars to equip therapists across Pennsylvania currently working with the ID/A populations, with the skills to support clients through trauma experiences. For more information and to complete the TRAIN Interest Survey, Click here.

- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)- All eligible Medicaid mental health providers are encouraged to apply for the EMDR certification. The partnership with the University of Pittsburgh aims to offer certifications for an innovative EMDR therapy, which will help mental health providers to implement tools to help Pennsylvanians struggling with mental health. The continued implementation of trauma-informed therapies to promote and support the well-being of all Pennsylvanians who need them, remains a priority for DHS. For more information and to register, Click here.

Val Arkoosh, MD, MPH
Secretary of Human Services